Saturday 13 September 2014

End of the road for Tampines Bike Park

Riders, coaches sad to lose park, which has S'pore's only BMX track
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 12 Sep 2104

MARBLES, Raptor, Tree Hugger - these are pet names of parts of the Tampines Bike Park that cyclists have grown to love.

But, by Monday, they will be just memories.

After more than a decade, the much-loved park will close to make way for the new Tampines North housing estate.

"It's a real loss," said Tampines resident Azman Omar, 45. "All of us are sad to see it go."

The avid cyclist has been a regular rider there since 1999, when it was an unofficial bike park consisting of 60ha of open space with a rough dirt track which cyclists maintained in their free time.

"Because of this place, I've not moved out of Tampines since 1994. I told my wife, I don't want to go anywhere, this is my playground," said Mr Azman, who works in logistics.

The Tampines Avenue 9 park has the only BMX track in Singapore and a 13km-long mountain bike trail.

Managed by Sport Singapore (SportSG), it is used by about 2,600 riders a month - a healthy number for a park of this size, according to the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF).

Its BMX track was built specially for the Youth Olympic Games in 2010, when it was officially opened, and is the only one in South-east Asia certified by the International Cycling Union.

The park was supposed to close last year. The Government agreed to postpone the closure so that SportSG could find a new venue.

When The Straits Times visited on Wednesday morning, there was a sign put up by SportSG announcing the impending closure.

Coaches told The Straits Times they have already stopped holding cycling classes there.

"Tampines was great, it was very accessible and you could teach all levels of riders," said mountain bike skills instructor Wilson Low, 31. But while he holds his classes at three other mountain bike trails, BMX riders will have nowhere to go.

"The future of BMX depends largely on whether a new track is built," said Mr Kenneth Wee, 43, founder of Singapore Bike School. "The closest BMX track to us is in Malacca."

SportSG issued a tender to design and build a new BMX track in June but withdrew it soon after, without explanation.

SCF's vice-president for BMX Abdul Rahman Ibrahim said he had contacted SportSG three times since then, but has not received an answer. "It's very frustrating. Without a BMX track we cannot take the sport forward."

SportSG told The Straits Times it has been working with various agencies to find a possible site for a new BMX track. "We will give an update in due course," said the spokesman, who declined to comment on the tender's cancellation.

Meanwhile, Tampines MP and SCF patron Irene Ng said her GRC is organising a bike carnival tomorrow to mark the park's last hurrah. "We encourage those who haven't done so to come and enjoy (the park) one last time," she said. The carnival will host game booths, cycling clinics and the venue's last race.

Ms Ng added: "I expect a lot of photo-taking to capture the final days of the (venue) and to preserve memories of Singapore's first world-class bike park."

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